Artcore: Erika Lust

“I’m feminist and porn director.” So says Erika Lust, who makes some of the most beautiful erotic films imaginable. However, when it comes to using the term ‘feminist’, it’s not a black and white issue to Lust. ” If we label something feminist and that has the consequence that we reduce it, that we define it in an absolute manner, something might be going wrong. A porn is a porn is a porn is a porn. A film, a piece of artwork, fiction. Feminist porn is referring to porn produced by feminists, or let’s say in a feminist way (people don’t necessarily have to label themselves). Feminist porn is not fiction. It’s not referring to the content, the plot, the image of the porn film.”

“How can I as a feminist propagate what’s the porn other feminists may like? How can I as a woman claim what’s the sex other women would like to watch? I can’t and I don’t want to. But what is it then? Is it totally open, uncertain, vague? It’s not. Because we are talking about different things that we merge and mix to all the different aspects we refer to when we criticize ‘porn’. If approaching porn with a feminist attitude there is certain things that are clear, nailed down, and certain things that are open. It’s clear that the sex on the set is consensual, people doing it are safe and sane, there’s fair working conditions. If porn is to be called feminist it should be clear that there’s no women forced to do anything she doesn’t want to. But the people, the sex performers – men and women – they can perform sex in any possible way and this doesn’t make it anti-feminist – the contrary is the case, because there’s so many different women, different desires, that it would be clearly reducing a woman to a certain desire if we could clearly exclude anything from being depicted in porn.

‘We’, as feminists, left porn in the hands of not only guys, but in the hands of the same old bunch of guys for decades, we’ve been protesting, we’ve been trying to ban porn, we’ve been discussing, and we’ve fought a lot within the feminist movement against ourselves. After almost three decades of being so much against it, we took a look at the industry to see that we hardly challenged the industry, because with all our attempts to change something we didn’t really dare to touch porn. That’s different now, and there’s an uprising of women realizing their own vision of porn, as well as there’s some men being fed up with mainstream porn, that came up with interesting projects. One of those women that rolled up their sleeves and started to do porn themselves is me.

But who are we to tell other women what they are supposed to like and what not? Again: it’s a film, people are acting. And even if they are really having sex, doing ‘it’ (with or without camera) is sometimes more, sometimes less, a role-play.

I think we agree to a certain extent, so let’s go directly to the explosive issues. I’ve depicted a so-called cum-shot in one of my films (The Good Girl, a short film part of ‘Five hot Stories for her’; ). I did it in a different way than the chauvinist mainstream films do. It’s not giving the woman any pleasure to have the face splashed? Well some think it’s fun but I agree that it’s not doing any stimulation. But it’s not doing any harm either. If a woman, or a man by the way (the whole ‘is it degrading?’ discussion is totally ignoring that there’s more than heterosexual practices), likes it, or at least doesn’t find it repulsive, what would even be the deal in doing it for the guy? Like the guy would do something that may not be giving him total stimulation just to give pleasure in return (but Dan Savage is explaining those aspects of relationships and sex the best I think). It’s degrading? So what? It’s a role-play! Doing some sexual practices it’s even the point that it’s degrading! Think of BDSM for example. But it’s just a role-play that people do safe, sane and consensual.

You can exercise those games of dominance and submission, of degrading and being degraded, in a respectful way. I did it in my film ‘Married…with children’ (which is also on Five hot Stories for her ), showing that the roles in the sexual play does not mean that the personal relation of the people in everyday life shows the same imbalance of power. I even went further, not despite I knew it was a no-go for many feminists, but for the very reason because I had the impression that fetish and BDSM kind of was a taboo to many women. Some might be curious about it but have reservations so they don’t ask about it, while they only lack information. So I made the experimental short-film Handcuffswhich is available for free., and the short film Love me like you hate me, that comes with a book with the same title that I’ve co-written with the fetish artist Venus O’Hara. With this I wanted to create a whole female approach to the subject.

Am I saying that’s porn for women? Yes, it’s done by women, for women, has a female perspective, shows the women as a subject, and focuses on female lust and desire. Am I saying all women like it? Of course not. There’s films from other female feminist filmmakers that I don’t like, and there will be women, feminists or not, that will like my films, and those who won’t. But I personally appreciate any project that creates an alternative to the chauvinist, and poor-quality mainstream porn, even if it’s not my taste. My feminist attitude tells me that the thing with porn and women is kind of the same like with sex: if you like it, do it. If you don’t like it, don’t do it. If you reject porn, don’t watch it, but respect other people – and as a feminist: other womens choice to do so. And if you happen to like it, I might have something you’d be interested in.”

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